- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he believes social media platforms can be addictive.
- “I do think, like anything else, these tools can be addictive,” Dorsey said. “And we should be aware of that, acknowledge it, and make sure that we are making our customers aware of better patterns of usage. The more information the better here.”
- Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were asked about app addiction during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Their answers differed, with Zuckerberg saying the research is “inconclusive” that users find social media platforms to be addicting.
- Experts have said that social media apps are designed to keep users coming back over and over in order to receive a “dopamine hit” of new posts, and that apps like Twitter and Facebook can produce feelings of “social well-being” to which users built up a tolerance.
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Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be addictive, according to Jack Dorsey.
During Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss issues pertaining to content moderation and the 2020 election, both Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were questioned by Sen. Lindsey Graham on whether the platforms they built have the ability to become addicting for the customers who use them.
Their answers differed significantly, with Zuckerberg saying it’s “inconclusive” whether social media platforms are addictive and Dorsey stating he believes that they are.
“I do think, like anything else, these tools can be addictive,” Dorsey said. “And we should be aware of that, acknowledge it, and make sure that we are making our customers aware of better patterns of usage. The more information the better here.”
Zuckerberg said he hasn’t seen any internal research that points to Facebook being addictive for users.
“From what I’ve seen so far, it’s inconclusive and most of the research suggests that the vast majority of people do not perceive or experience these services as addictive or have issues,” Zuckerberg said. “But I do think that there should be controls given to people to help them manage their experience better and this is something that we’re very focused on.”
Research has shown that social media apps have the ability to become addicting because they can produce feelings of “social well-being” among users. “Researchers find people who are really heavy users develop a tolerance to that feeling, so they need more and more exposure to get the same effect,” according to Joseph Rock, a doctor of psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.
Tristan Harris, a former Googler and outspoken advocate for “humane technology,” has consistently argued that apps are designed like slot machines in that they are inherently addicting for users: Nearly every time someone swipes down on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, they are rewarded with a new post or photo, and that’s what keeps people coming back.
Giving users more data about their use, which appears to be what both Dorsey and Zuckerberg are suggesting, doesn’t solve the problem of app addiction, Harris told Business Insider last year.
“If the person is feeling the kind of anxiety and novelty-seeking craving in their lower nervous system that causes them to reach for their phone the second time this last 60 seconds,” Harris said, “it’s not because they just need a seat belt or … [need] a limit that says, ‘don’t do that.'”
Instead, he’s called for app designers to focus on creating positive experiences that encourage people to make real connections, not just opening an app for the “next dopamine fix.”